Friday, September 29, 2017

U.K. Courts Require Travelers To Hand Over Device Passwords

It is now clear as day that it is against UK law not to give their access codes to authorities as part of their power to counter terrorism. The UK legislation requires travelers hand over the passwords for their digital devices for their contents to be searched at borders.

A London court even found Muhammad Rabbani guilty of willfully obstructing the police by failing to hand over device passwords and the PIN code for his smartphone after he had been detained at a UK airport.

Rabbani is international director of Cage, an advocacy organization for communities impacted by Western counterterrorism policies.

He says he had been returning from a business trip to the Middle East last year when he was detailed and questioned. He declined to provide his passwords because he said he wanted to protect sensitive information provided to Cage by a client who had been subjected to torture.

The Intercept has reported at some length on the case after the same counter-terrorism legislation was used in 2013 to detain David Miranda, the partner of Intercept co-founder and investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald who had been in contact with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In that instance UK authorities seized journalistic material stored on a hard drive being carried through a UK airport by Miranda - apparently conflating journalism and terrorism.

The law being used by UK authorities to force people to provide access keys to their digital devices is Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 - which is supposed to be used solely to determine whether a person is directly involved in the "commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism".

Supporters hailed the law as a victory for safety inside civilized society and a big blow to Muslims who sole intent is to do harm to their fellow man.

It's not yet clear what sentence Rabbani is facing, though he has now confirmed to us he intends to appeal.

According to the Intercept, which cites a classified GCHQ document released to it by Snowden, UK authorities have used Schedule 7 powers to covertly download data from devices searched at borders. Downloaded data was then placed in a central database where it could be searched by GCHQ agents. Retained data could apparently include "anything stored on a target's phone" such as contact lists, text messages, and call records.

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